It’s a moment of pride for India’s space scientists. The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has successfully launched its 100th satellite — Cartosat-2 series, marking a significant milestone in a journey that has come to symbolise the triumph of self-reliance over technology denials. Scoring a perfect century in the satellite launch field is no mean task. India has secured its place among the elite club of space-faring nations that have mastered the cryogenic technology. It has been an arduous odyssey for the country’s satellite launch programme that began nearly four decades ago and overcame several challenges along the way, including technology denials. For decades, export controls on strategic technologies were used by the developed world to prevent India from developing missile or nuclear technology. Now, India is on the other side of the table, having established its niche strengths. The space agency’s indefatigable workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), on its 42nd flight, carried Cartostat-2 series satellite and 30 other satellites, including 28 foreign satellites from the US, Britain, France, Canada, South Korea and Finland. The 320-tonne rocket successfully ejected the satellites one by one and deployed them into the earth’s lower orbit about 17 minutes after the lift-off from the Sriharikota spaceport. The 710-Kg Cartosat-2 satellite boosts India’s surveillance capability. Apart from monitoring the borders, it will also help in urban planning, monitor data services for coasts, road networks, water distribution and land-use mapping. It carries panchromatic and multi-spectral cameras capable of delivering high-resolution data.
The satellite is the seventh remote sensing satellite in its series with a mission life of five years. The latest success sets the tone for a hectic schedule of launches spread over the year. It will also boost the confidence for the upcoming GSLV Mark III launch. GSLV holds key to India’s big leap into the space business and long interplanetary and Moon and Mars missions in future. After suffering a setback last August when PSLV’s mission carrying the first private sector-built navigation satellite failed, Isro scientists made quick corrections and successfully demonstrated once again that the workhorse rocket is back in the game for reliable satellite launches. Every launch serves as a fresh test of a range of technology capabilities and the latest success demonstrates Isro’s mastery over launch capabilities. Since India offers cost competitive advantage, there is a huge business opportunity waiting to be tapped in the area of launch of mini and micro satellites. There is a growing demand from the private sector and research institutions wanting to put small payloads into low orbit for space data. An exclusive Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), being developed by Isro, will be ideally positioned to cater to the demands of this sector.